The reviews for the final, consumer version of the Oculus Rift are all over the media, and there are mixed comments. Above all I perceive some kind of disappointment: where is the miracle? Where is the revolution?
It’s hard to surprise with something that has been in the works publicly for so long. The miracle and the revolution started years ago, when we astounded ourselves with a device that finally showed that Virtual Reality experiences were indeed possible.
Being able to enjoy those experiences seems now something almost boring. Of course the Oculus Rift has arrived: it had to, at some point. Those reviewers have written prettydull, unimpressive pieces about a product that was so well known it had no chances to impress us.
That is the next step for the Oculus Rift and the rest of its competitors, of course. But at least they’ve given the first and most difficult step.
I don’t buy the article at Wired. The author talks us about how ‘articles from these publishers remain distinctly, recognizably theirs’, but I see this not as revolutionary, but mandatory for publishers, who want the experience they give unchanged.
I don’t see the real difference with Flipboard -I must try both on an iPad- so I can’t speak yet about the quality of the experience, but I can’t trust an article that gives that publicity to the Apple News application when they are partners at the app launch.
This is a good summary of some of the problems big media assets are fighting against. Google, Apple and Facebook are trying to control the news and our way to get informed. They are trying to control content, because content is the gateway to ads. Quoting Patel:
Unfortunately, the ads pay for all that content, an uneasy compromise between the real cost of media production and the prices consumers are willing to pay that has existed since the first human scratched the first antelope on a wall somewhere. Media has always compromised user experience for advertising.
But the editor from The Verge doesn’t give much alternatives. He doesn’t mention the clear analogy of TV -you’ve got FTA channels, and you’ve got pay-per-view-, and he even doesn’t talk about paywalls, subscriptions, or micropayments.
There are certainly options to the current situation. I see four:
Free content supported by ads: anyone can do this now, and will be able to do it in the future, but ad revenue will decrease, and users will for sure fight against that with adblockers.
Paywalls: sorry, only huge media here.
Micropayments: an option for smaller media sites. Combine that with a subscription model, and you’ve got a viable alternative for niche sites with loyal readers (Patreon is a good example of that kind of service to support those ‘creative’ sites)
Flat rate: you pay a monthly fee ($5?) and get access to the free-ad web. Earnings are divided amongst all content providers depending on traffic (uniques, time spent there, a combination…) and any publisher can join that effort. There has to be someone managing that, maybe a consortium of tech companies providing the tools (browsers, payment gateways, etc). I see Mozilla as a clear example, and in fact the tried their own vision of this with the Subscribe2Web project. Google Contributor is a nice try too.
There are lots of possible answers to the current everything-is-free-or-seems-to-be model. Let’s see what happens, but Apple and its content blocking feature in iOS 9 has changed something here.
Tech readers and users know about a new piece of technology long before most of the population does. They understand what that technology can do for everyone before people actually know that technology exists. So when that software or hardware product finally gets away from the geeky cave, their features and highlights must be clearly clarified.
Which doesn’t happen that much. Geeks and nerds seem geeks and nerds before and during the development and even launch of their products, but most of the times they continue to look like that, and their products do too. Media companies often like to show us that products in a way that may interest the general public… but not the right way.
It happened with Google Glass and the shower moment, and it has happened again with Virtual Reality and the akward Time magazine cover that has become the new big meme thing. Lot’s of images have been makking the rounds on the Internet, lots of listicles (and another one, and another one) have appeared around the new meme phenomenom, and even Time magazine editors themselves have embraced that publicity with their own favorites.
That’s a good way to react against a mistake that could damage their recognized brand, but there’s no sign of admitting that this cover does not sell that technology very well to the non-tech-initiated population. It makes Virtual Reality look like a toy, like something you look stupid with, and does not reflect the impact that this revolutionary technology can have in our world.
I haven’t read the article and I hope the text there reflects that, but that cover, wich is what people will remember, is a mistake. And a big one.
Please, stop that discourse. Technology revolutions will not make anyone a nerd or a geek. They will tranform us and our lifes, hopefully for the better. This kind of message does not help that mission. I’m not the only one who thinks that. There are lots of critics around. Lots of them.
PS: By the way: don’t miss the featured article that The Verge did on this subject. It’s amazing.